Why the humanities matter now more than ever
“We need Homer,” writes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, in his recent article, “The End of College as We Knew It?”. Homer, the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, two epic poems widely studied in core college curricula, is according to Bruni, just as important as the doctors and scientists keeping our civilization afloat throughout this pandemic. He continues, “We need writers, philosophers, historians. They’ll be the ones to chart the social, cultural and political challenges of this pandemic — and of all the other dynamics that have pushed the United States so harrowingly close to the edge. In terms of restoring faith in the American project and reseeding common ground, they’re beyond essential.”
Colleges have been among the major institutions to flounder from consequences of the pandemic, leading to an existential crisis. The college identity is now up in the air. With revenue, budget and resource reductions, colleges are forced to either imperfectly adapt the college experience into an online one, or crumble under the pressure. Students are changing their attitudes, too. What used to be for some an opportunity for personal as well as academic exploration and growth, has now become a question of practicality and job-market preparedness. But this pandemic is raising exactly those big questions that the great philosophers and writers of human history mulled over for centuries.